OLDSMAR — Within a few months, city residents should be able to recycle more items more conveniently.
At last week's City Council meeting, Oldsmar leaders approved changes to an agreement with the company that collects trash for the city, allowing it to take over recycling pickups by January.
Currently, the city handles recycling. Each household organizes a limited selection of recyclable items into an 18-gallon bin. They're asked to put paper products on the bottom, cans on one side and plastic bottles on the other. A city worker sorts and collects items at the curb on collection day.
In a few months, the new system, called "single-stream" recycling, will kick in and Republic Services of Florida will be in charge. Residents will be able toss a larger variety of recyclable items into a 64-gallon wheeled cart. And they won't have to worry about what goes where.
Instead of a person emptying the bin, a robotic arm will hoist the recycling carts and dump the contents into a Republic truck, which will transport items to Republic's facility in Polk County, where items will be sorted.
The new arrangement will make it easier on residents and the city, said assistant public works director Bob Cyr.
"We're really looking forward to it," Cyr said. "With the new system, I'm sure we're going to have greater participation, which is certainly going to help the environment by getting those materials out of the landfill."
Now between 35 and 40 percent of households participate.
"I'm hoping we're going to get over the 50 percent mark," Cyr said.
Republic will keep the proceeds from recyclables, but the city may save money because costs will likely go down, Cyr said.
"Every ton we remove from the waste stream we save $37.50," he said.
At last week's city meeting, council member Linda Norris, an avid recycler, excitedly rattled off the items that residents would be able to recycle — basically, everything the city now allows, plus corrugated cardboard and glass. They'll also be able to recycle more types of plastic, and certain plastic foams, according to Randy Canal, business unit manager for Republic Services of Florida.
The city and Republic are planning a campaign to educate residents about all of the specifics.
Within a year, the city also expects to transition to a similar automated trash pickup system, with wheeled carts. Now, residents bring their own plastic bags and trash containers to the curb on collection days.
The city's previous contract with Republic was extended through September 2017. Residential rates for recycling, which are $2.10 a month, will stay the same. And trash collection charges will remain the same through October 2015.
Lorri Helfand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4155.